Very few people like liminal seasons: the time in-between of one phase of life and another.
The threshold in between jobs, or doctors’ appointments, or even hairstyles can feel uncomfortable and insecure.
When we leave one state of being (employment, marriage, good health), we are eager to land in another state as soon as possible and find our footing.
Often, we think we’d prefer to be anywhere but in the liminal space, and we are tempted to run through the first door that opens. This, in part, explains underemployment, rebound relationships, and other hasty decisions we later regret.
The ancient Romans understood the importance of liminality and had a number of liminal gods. They believed that three gods were in charge of doorways. Forculus was in charge of the door itself; Limentinus, the threshold; and Cardea oversaw the door hinge and how it pivoted.
The threshold space was not to be trifled with, and Romans were mindful to always enter a doorway space with their right foot first. St Augustine later mocked the Romans for requiring three gods to guard a single doorway, but they were onto something, I think.
Doorways and other liminal spaces are transition points and could benefit from divine protection. The door itself serves as a boundary. The threshold serves as the passage from one space or state to another, and the door hinge is what determines if the door serves as a barrier or an opening—these are not small things.
Liminal deities appear across many mythologies and religions in an acknowledgment that moving from one space, one season, or one state of being to another requires care.
Many of us around the globe, in places of vaccinated privilege, are in a liminal season right now. Following over a year of pandemic-driven relative isolation, we are getting ready to fully emerge.
There will be a natural inclination for some of us to rush out the door, as we are eager to get on with life. Others have grown comfortable with pandemic life and do not welcome the prospect of leaving.
There is another option to running through the door or staying stuck: we can hang out for a while on the threshold.
From the threshold, we can peek out into the hall and see if there are other doors of interest. We can make sure things look safe and establish some rules and boundaries to ensure the next stage of work, friendships, and relationships serve us well. We can take a little time to acclimatize, recognizing that the world we are reentering is not the one we left.
We can take some time to discover how we have changed over the year. Cardea was not only a goddess of the door hinge but also a goddess of health. I don’t think this was a coincidence.
Before diving back to the world of overscheduling, long commutes, and being too busy to take a proper breath, I’d invite you to stop in the doorway for just a moment.
Are there other doors you can see with your new perspective?
Is there anything you want to bring with you to the next stage?
Is there anything you’d rather leave behind?
Are there any doors you’d like to close and keep closed?
In the threshold space, these are all options we can explore.
I coach people in a liminal season, mostly in the time after divorce. The time is often not a comfortable one, but it’s almost always fruitful. If we allow ourselves to see this time of waiting as a gift—instead of a burden—we are far more likely to witness its teachings.
I believe we have this summer as a grace period, before school and regular work and the busyness of life return.
This is a time to grieve, ponder, dream, and observe.
It’s a time to reassert our values and make sure our life aligns. It’s a time to build healthy habits like journaling, meditation, and self-reflection, so we can check in with ourselves regularly to make sure we are not headed in the wrong direction or burning out.
And when the busy season returns and the world is trying to make up for lost time, we can cross that threshold to our post-pandemic lives. We can step into the new space with purpose and confidence from a position of wisdom and strength.